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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Diagnostics in onchocerciasis: future challenges.

The classical method of determining the prevalence and intensity of onchocercal infection is by the demonstration and counting of microfilariae in biopsies obtained by skin snipping. Although very specific, this technique is inadequate for detecting early, light or prepatent infections, and is also becoming increasingly unacceptable to the populations investigated. The prolonged clearing effect that Mectizan (ivermectin, MSD) treatment has on skin microfilariae also renders the skin-snip method of diagnosis less appropriate in areas with Mectizan treatment. Given all these factors, the greater challenge in the area of diagnostics for onchocerciasis is to develop a less invasive, adequately sensitive, and equally specific diagnostic test, either to replace or to be an adjunct to the present skin-snip method. This challenge is being addressed, with at least three new diagnostic tests for onchocerciasis under development: an immunological assay, based on a three-antigen cocktail; a PCR-based assay, which may also be used for 'pool screening' of blackflies; and the diethylcarbamazine (DEC) patch test. Of all these tests, the DEC patch test seems to fit best the criteria of an ideal test. The PCR assay would be better than the patch test if the cost of using it could be reduced substantially.[1]


  1. Diagnostics in onchocerciasis: future challenges. Boatin, B.A., Toé, L., Alley, E.S., Dembélé, N., Weiss, N., Dadzie, K.Y. Ann. Trop. Med. Parasitol. (1998) [Pubmed]
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